For many teens, the only must-have gift this holiday season is a smarter faster cell phone. But even as teens text, IM, Facetime and tweet for the holidays, the state's top law enforcement officer is reminding parents about the dangers lurking online.
With nearly nine out of every 10 teens in Florida having access to a smartphone or tablet with Internet access, Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking parents to talk to their children about cyber safety.
"With days off of school, many students will spend free time online. Predators know this, and that is why I am asking parents to talk to their children about cyber safety this holiday season," said Bondi. "Many children will receive smartphones, gaming consoles and other devices with Internet access as presents over the holidays, and with more ways to communicate online comes an increased risk of being targeted by a predator."
Online games can also pose a threat. Predators will use online games with message boards or Internet conference call technology to pose as teens and groom gamers for face-to-face meetings, Bondi said.
Many teens have social media profiles or use apps to share messages and pictures. This can increase the risk of being targeted by a predator, Bondi warned.
"A child's privacy is not worth their safety, and if a child is sharing information with strangers online, parents need to know and take swift action," Bondi cautioned.
Bondi plans to reach out directly to parents with cyber safety tips via Twitter from now until Christmas.
For more information and tips about cyber safety, please visit http://www.safeflorida.net/.
Tips for parents:
· Know every social media account and password, and check them regularly;
· Review the messages and pictures being shared by children;
· Remember predators will pose as teenagers online to build relationships with children and set up face-to-face meetings;
· Make sure GPS coordinates of pictures and other location information is not being shared;
· Set parameter for online activities, including time and location for internet use;
· Utilize filter features built into popular Internet browsers and software programs that block areas known to be inappropriate for children;
· Know the lingo used by teenagers in chat rooms, emails correspondence and text messages; and
· Talk to children regularly. Let them know it is unacceptable to meet a stranger who messages them online.